When the winds grow strong and the waves heavy, shorelines are proving to be an important shield from the damage these coastal storms can inflect. That's according to a new study by a group of scientists at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. They have drafted a map of America's shoreline that shows the amount of protection coral reefs, sea grasses, mangroves and sand dunes provide.

The map shows the amount of protection color. Blue means the most protection, or lowest hazard. Yellow means a medium hazard, and red means the highest risk or least protection.

According to their press release, the study (and map) are also proof of the need to protect these natural barriers. “As a nation, we should be investing in nature to protect our coastal communities,” said Mary Ruckelshaus, managing director of the Natural Capital Project and Woods consulting professor. “The number of people, poor families, elderly and total value of residential property that are most exposed to hazards can be reduced by half if existing coastal habitats remain fully intact.”

So if you live near the coast, and about 40% of the country's population does, take a close look at this map and check out .

Photo courtesy of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment